1. Religious Schools and the Constitution, By The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2021, Pg. A18, Editorial Maine has one of the country’s oldest educational choice systems, a tuition program for students who live in areas that don’t run schools of their own. Instead these families get to pick a school, and public funds go toward enrollment. Religious schools are excluded, however, and on Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear from parents who have closely read the First Amendment.  America’s Founders knew what they were doing when they wrote the First Amendment to protect religious “free exercise.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/religious-schools-and-the-constitution-supreme-court-carson-v-makin-maine-11638836528___________________________________________________________ 2. States Must Not Bar Religious School Options, By Michael Bindas and Walter Womack, The New York Times, December 8, 2021, Pg. A23, Opinion In 2002, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution allows school choice programs to include schools that provide religious instruction, so long as the voucher program also offers secular options. The question now before the court is whether a state may nevertheless exclude schools that provide religious instruction. The case, Carson v. Makin, which the justices will hear Wednesday, concerns Maine’s tuition assistance program. In that large and sparsely populated state, over half of the school districts have no public high schools. If a student lives in such a district, and it does not contract with another high school to educate its students, then the district must pay tuition for the student to attend the school of her or his parents’ choice. That school may be public or private, inside or outside the state — even outside the country.  It can even be a religious-affiliated school. But one type of school is off limits: a school that provides religious instruction. That may seem unconstitutional, and we argue that it is. Only last year, the Supreme Court, citing the free exercise clause of the Constitution, held that states cannot bar students in a school choice program from selecting religious schools when it allows them to choose other private schools. But in what can best be described as a hairsplitting distinction, Maine sees things differently. The state insists that it does not bar parents from choosing certain schools because they are religious, but rather because the schools do religious things.  The outcome will be enormously consequential for families in public schools that are failing them and will go a long way toward determining whether the most disadvantaged families can exercise the same control over the education of their children as wealthier citizens. Michael Bindas is a senior attorney at the libertarian Institute for Justice. Walter Womack is the pastor of Faithful Baptist Church and president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of the parents in this case. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/07/opinion/public-schools-religion.html___________________________________________________________ 3. Religious Schools Have Their Day in Court, By Nathan Lewin, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2021, Pg. A18, Letter to the Editor Is it constitutional for a state to compel conduct but to treat differently those who comply fully with a statutory mandate while adding their religious observance? Jewish day schools that fully satisfy the education standards prescribed by local law while also providing religious instruction are penalized for their religious observance by the denial of tuition assistance. Mr. Lewin has argued 28 cases before the Supreme Court. He submitted an amicus curiae brief in Carson v. Makin on behalf of national Jewish organizations. https://www.wsj.com/articles/religious-schools-carson-makin-school-choice-separation-church-state-supreme-court-11638836485?___________________________________________________________ 4. Pope’s answer on Paris prelate raises more questions than it answered, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, December 8, 2021, Opinion A good case in point came Monday during Pope Francis’s latest airborne press conference, in response to the question of why he moved so swiftly to accept the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris. It was an obvious question, given that, by now, one could assemble an entire 40-man baseball roster just from bishops whose resignations Francis has refused.  Moreover, many of those bishops were accused of misconduct or failures related to clerical sexual abuse scandals, which, on the face of it, seem far more serious than the alleged foibles of the 70-year-old Aupetit regarding an “intimate relationship” with an adult woman. Why Francis acted so swiftly in this case – just a week after Aupetit offered to resign, and the same day the pope set out for a five-day trip to Greece and Cyprus – does, therefore, naturally beckon curiosity.  Francis claimed that Aupetit hasn’t been convicted by a court of law but rather by the court of public opinion, suggesting he’s been targeted by a sort of malicious gossip that has destroyed his good name. The pontiff said that in such a situation Aupetit could no longer govern, and concluded saying he accepted the resignation “not on the altar of truth, but the altar of hypocrisy.”  The first problem with that answer is that it seems far better suited to explaining why a pope wouldn’t accept an offered resignation, not why he would. If it’s true that Aupetit hasn’t done anything especially serious, and that his resignation will serve only the interests of hypocrisy, then why go along with it? The whole reason the Vatican makes a fetish out of the sovereignty of the papacy, insisting that the pope is accountable to no earthly power, is precisely so that he’ll be able to resist the dictates of popular pressure. Indeed, if you take Francis’s words at face value, it almost seems to imply a sort of “heckler’s veto” on a bishop: If a crowd screams loud enough and long enough, they can get a bishop removed regardless of the merits. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2021/12/popes-answer-on-paris-prelate-raises-more-questions-than-it-answered___________________________________________________________ 5. Religious freedom commission welcomes U.S. diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, By Catholic News Service, December 8, 2021 The Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing sends “a strong and unequivocal message” to the Chinese government that its persecution of religious minorities will not be tolerated, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The decision demonstrates the United States’ “unwavering commitment to religious freedom,” Nury Turkel, the commission’s vice chair, said in a Dec. 6 statement. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-asia/2021/12/religious-freedom-commission-welcomes-u-s-diplomatic-boycott-of-beijing-olympics___________________________________________________________ 6. Supreme Court to hear Maine case that could expand school voucher programs nationwide, By John Fritze, USA Today, December 7, 2021, 5:01 AM When the Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case about whether parents may use state education money for sectarian schools, the central question will deal with religious freedom versus separation of church and state. But lurking just below the surface is a broader battle over school choice, including voucher programs, which could grow significantly depending on how the court rules. At issue is a relatively unusual program in Maine that provides subsidies for education in rural districts that don’t have their own high school. The state allows parents in that situation to use the money that would have been spent locally to send their children to other public or private schools – but not to programs that offer religious instruction. The parents of students who wanted to use the state subsidy for religious education sued, asserting Maine’s policy violated their First Amendment right to practice religion free from government interference.  In the Maine case, the Boston-based appeals court concluded last year that the funding was not denied because the schools are Christian, but rather because of the Christianity the schools teach. Several of the high court’s conservative justices have questioned whether there’s really a difference between the two. “What point is it to tell a person that he is free to be Muslim but he may be subject to discrimination for doing what his religion commands,” Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion last year. “Calling it discrimination on the basis of religious status or religious activity makes no difference: It is unconstitutional all the same.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/12/07/supreme-court-religious-schools-case-vouchers/8889551002/___________________________________________________________ 7. Meeting between Canadian First Nations and pope postponed, By Rob Gillies, Associated Press, December 7, 2021, 8:59 PM A meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and Canadian Indigenous people who were abused at church-run boarding schools has been postponed because of the new coronavirus variant. National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday that the delegation had planned to travel to Rome next week and meet with the pope on Dec. 20, but the trip is being put off because of the omicron variant. Many of the First Nation delegates are elderly. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/meeting-between-canadian-first-nations-and-pope-postponed/2021/12/07/6c8a1f3e-57ca-11ec-8396-5552bef55c3c_story.html___________________________________________________________ 8. Pope Francis closes clerical sex abuse loophole, By The Pillar, December 7, 2021 Clerics who sexually abuse minors can be canonically prosecuted even when they say they were not aware that a person with whom they had sexual contact was a minor, according to changes to canon law announced by the Vatican on Tuesday. The reform of the law, authorized by Pope Francis, follows cases in which clerics claimed they did not know the age of a minor with whom they had sexual contact, or believed them to be more than 18 years old. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/pope-francis-closes-clerical-sex___________________________________________________________ 9. Pope Francis updates norms on crimes judged by Vatican’s doctrinal office, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, December 7, 2021, 10:00 AM Pope Francis updated Tuesday the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s procedural norms for the most serious crimes, including schism, sacramental desecration, and abuse of minors. The pope promulgated the new adaptations to the “Norms on the delicts reserved for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” on Dec. 7, the day before the revision of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law goes into effect. The definition of the delicts, or crimes, themselves have not been changed. But the new version of the norms aligns with the revisions to Book VI, as well as recent laws Pope Francis has issued, including his motu proprios As a loving mother and Vos estis lux mundi. The new norms now also include the possibility of the pope decreeing the dismissal from the clerical state directly, without a trial, in cases of crimes against the faith, such as heresy, apostasy, and schism. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/249807/pope-francis-updates-norms-on-crimes-judged-by-vatican-s-doctrinal-office___________________________________________________________ 10. Victoria anti-discrimination bill ‘unfairly targets’ religious organizations, archbishop says, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, December 7, 2021, 4:31 PM Catholic leaders in Australia expressed concern this week about a new set of laws passed in the state of Victoria which prevent religious groups and schools from making hiring decisions based on protected attributes such as marital status. Melbourne’s Catholic archbishop said following the bill’s passage that “not a single problem of discrimination” has been identified in the state’s Catholic schools. Under the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021, religious organisations and schools will no longer be able to fire or refuse to hire people based on protected attributes such as sexuality, gender identity, or marital status, a Dec. 2 announcement from the Victorian premier reads. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/249813/victoria-anti-discrimination-bill-unfairly-targets-religious-organizations-archbishop-says___________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.

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